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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Statement of Love


Mural and mosaic in the works: Celebrating communal differences, promoting change

In response to the 2016 presidential election, Kate Mellon-Anibaba started the nonprofit organization Statement of Love to start conversations and promote positivity. The organization later won a grant from the city to create a mural celebrating the differences within the community.

“I started Statement of Love after I got married to a black and Muslim immigrant,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “The weekend after I got married in this beautiful blending of cultures, we had a lot of friends from diverse backgrounds. We [then] found out that people in our community were too scared to go outside. It really affected me, and I wanted to show that there are people who are here for you and are there for you.”

Kate Mellon-Anibaba’s partner in the art project, Toni Rizzo, remembered how she felt post-election. She later joined Mellon-Anibaba on her endeavors to promote change.

“For me, I knew Kate for a while,” Rizzo said. “It really resonated with me that, instead of feeling defeated and taking on the weight of how terrible it was after the election, Kate was there and ready to make change. She wasn’t going to let any of these really important topics get swept under the rug. She wasn’t going to let any voice stop from being heard. At the end of the day, it feels so much better to fight the fight and make change and to support your community however you can. We want to uplift everyone to shine light on voices that are not heard. A lot of the marginalized group do not have the luxury to forget — they’re dealing on a day to day basis.”

Mellon-Anibaba elaborated on the goals of the nonprofit organization she created and what inspired her to create the mural mosaic.  

“Our goal is to support marginalized communities in Davis,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “I have a family and I have a full time job. I was trying to find ways to make an impact in the community. Toni and I came together and brainstormed, wanting to do a mural mosaic. We organized a grant for the city of Davis and won.”

Rizzo explained the process of planning out the mural in its early stages through a mock up.

“We went through phases of rearranging the mockup,” Rizzo said. “It’s just been a wonderful process of figuring out what we want to convey and all of the different people we want to highlight. There are so many communities, and we want them to look at this mural and see themselves. I think that was an important aspect of this — we wanted to find a way to balance highlighting so many different groups and topics that are relevant right now while making it a cohesive mural.”

Rachel Hartsough, the arts and culture manager for the City of Davis, is in favor of this project.

“While the city is providing support for the project, the Statement of Love team is responsible for the design and implementation of the project,” Hartsough said via email. “We are really looking forward to being able to see this beautiful and welcoming mural in our Downtown, and looking forward to working with Statement of Love more in the future.”

Mellon-Anibaba noted how grateful she was for the support from the city.

“We had an awesome idea and people on the panel in the city of Davis who believed in the Statement of Love’s accomplishments,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “They gave us the money and supported us in finding a space and timeline.”

Rizzo will be painting the mural, which will be situated at the Odd Fellows building, featuring themes of community organizing, LGBTQ acceptance, woman’s rights, social justice and freedom of religion.

“While I have had such a great time painting, the whole border will contain hand-painted tiles from community members,” Rizzo said. “We’ve had community outreach groups, which is more important than the actual mural. In those times where the community is coming together, we can start to nurture homogenization between different people, and we can start to come together over a lot of different topics to understand each other and uplift one another. We can start the conversation through the acknowledgement of pain and hurt.”

Mellon-Anibaba acknowledged that Davis is a small town, and she hopes that this project will provide those who do not have a voice with representation.  

“We know how the Davis bubble can really get into your own space, and we’re hoping this project can get people exposed to what others are going through and their life experiences and allow those connections to happen and have empathy for each other,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “We can create that impactful message that way that is representative of people who don’t see themselves often reflected in public art.”

Rizzo believes that the art can provide a space where people can talk about their differences, bringing everyone together.

“We can start the process of healing in our community,” Rizzo said. “We have to get uncomfortable and have these conversations by having the community come together to paint these tiles — this is just the first step.”

Sarah Rizzo, the head of the mosaic and also Toni Rizzo’s mother, has contributed a large part  to the project as well.

“We want to give a shout-out to her [Sarah],” Rizzo said. “She’s doing an amazing job.”

More information can be found about Statement of Love on its Facebook page. The mural and mosaic is projected to be done and unveiled by June.


Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org


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